Category Archives: Political Action

A Healthy Lawn, Drought Stressed Turf and a Meadow: Finding Our Way to a ‘Better’ Landscape

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A golf course is dependent upon a healthy, vital and uniform turf. It directly influences a course’s playability. Even if you don’t play golf, the landscape can evoke a calm with their pastoral, expansive lawns and views. This is a view down the 14th fairway at Eastmorland Golf Course. Imagine this drought stressed and brown overwhelmed with weeds…both the play and the ‘feeling’ the landscape evokes will be badly degraded.  The perimeter rough areas receive no water and minimal maintenance. To the left is a swath of Blackberry. Other areas are over grown with weeds with fence lines draped with the invasive Clematis.  Priorities are one-sided.

[The world is like a ball of string…pull on the loose end available to you, and you pull on the entire thing!]

Portlanders, Oregonians, often promote ourselves as being ‘green’ leaders.  Cleaning up the Willamette, the Bottle Bill, preserving our beaches as public property, state mandated land use planning, bicycling, recycling, mass transit…and it’s an apt description…to a point.  Combine this with our relatively low population, our huge, diverse and beautiful natural landscape, our progressive ‘weirdness’, and we are firmly on the national map, the envy of many places and a beguiling destination for those who find themselves looking for the laid back, ‘cool’ place, to be.  Our environmental righteousness is intoxicating and clouds our own vision of where we are and the work to be done.  A steady stream of new arrivals brings with them their own visions of Portland, based more on their own desires and marketing efforts than the on the ground reality, skewed by tinted glasses of Portlandia’s popularity, our own boosterism and the ‘boom’, probably transitory, commitment that big money has showered upon us.  Our little town is not what it once was, if it ever was.  But this is the nature of any place, it is many things, often contradictory, when looked at by its many very different inhabitants with their unique history’s and perspectives. Continue reading

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The Problem Is: Who and What to Believe and The Necessity of Regaining Trust in Humanity

 

[I promise that I have several horticultural posts in the works and I will be posting them in the next two or three weeks…it’s just that the world is so crazy right now and there is still too much fighting amongst ourselves.  We need to start taking control of the ‘discussion’ for our own sanity and the good of this country.  Please, I want to start gardening again!]

We don’t truly realize our own power, and how it works…we surrender it to our “leaders”, because it is difficult for us to reach out to each other, to make the effort to network, to trust in like minded, but ‘unknown’ individuals and ‘live’ the life we want and each deserve.  To do this requires our full commitment, our full awareness and our faith that at our core we all share compatible goals for our own lives and for those of our children…it requires courage.  It requires that we understand that each of us will choose a path that is unique to them, but that each of us can still be respectful of all of the others.  At its best, at its fullest expression, it is inclusive of all people requiring only that others be the same.  We have to be strong to rise above our own fear and clear sighted enough to see through the fear that others might use to sway us, to manipulate us.  We know when something is ‘true’, because truth will always resonate within us.  Fear, dishonesty, falsity…will send a discordant vibration through our core that will leave us feeling fearful and angry, it will cause us to look at others with suspicion and put us into a defensive stance, it will feed the fear that can threaten any of us and cause us to react, if we aren’t careful, to others in ways that are disrespectful and harmful to them.  We might say that we are protecting ourselves, our children and our communities, but when we act out of this kind of fear and anger, we are not…when we do this we have given up on hope, on love, we have ‘circled the wagons’ and are making our ‘last stand against’….When we define ourselves in opposition to…we are accepting a world and lives that are less than, we have surrendered and either are awaiting rescue or are desperately hanging on to the belief that we can defeat ‘them’, and we and our lives are all smaller for it. Continue reading

Weeds, Politics and Commitment- When Doing the Right Thing is Outside of the Box

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This view is from the northern property line looking westerly toward 27th which runs between the white and gray warehouse buildings. The tall ‘coppery’ growths are the seed heads of the Knotweed. Much of the middle ground is buried in Blackberry while Clematis can be seen to the left now hanging from a neighbor’s tree, and is more than capable of burying it completely. The brick at the bottom of the frame is the cap of a low wall the northern property owner has built.

[There is a recurring theme in several of my postings and that is the failure of various of our local agencies and departments to responsibly care for the landscapes that they are charged with, a responsibility that is secondary to their primary mission and priorities.  The fact that this problem is so common is indicative of two things: first, that society views the ‘care’ of the wider landscape as a non-issue, that it is either somehow self-regulating, the mother nature thing, or, of such low importance that it need not be addressed, or some combination of these two, and, that our need for government accountability is so tightly defined and our mistrust of it, so deep, that our ‘exclusionary’ strategies utilized to accomplish this, eliminate the possibility that secondary responsibilities, i.e., those not directly serving the explicitly stated priorities, are excluded from any action or even discussion.  Thus, an agency or department charged with specific transportation priorities will only respond to and act on issues of transportation efficiency and safety…not landscape concerns.  My position is that this allows the uncontrolled spread of weeds and an overall decline of the health, beauty and vitality of the landscapes across the City within which we live, devaluing both the place that we live and the quality of lives we can enjoy.

The following is another example of one such landscape, in southeast Portland, this time a one block section of unimproved right-of-way, or roadway (UROW), a scenario that repeats regularly across this part of Portland, the difference being that the lack of vehicular traffic and the grade have allowed this property to grow in solid and has become impenetrable.  Many other such properties are in use by vehicles with sections of them graveled and eroded, huge pot-holes turning them into obstacle courses, but largely free of heavy weed growth, or at least free of many of the larger more aggressive invasives that plague our area.

First, below, is a descriptive piece that I sent to Commissioner Novick’s office as well as Suzanne Kahn, PBOT Maintenance Group Manager.  Next is the response I received from Cevero Gonzalez, Constituent Services Coordinator, with the Portland Bureau of Transportation and finally, my interpretation and response to that.  Governments are very ‘conservative’ organizations and are risk averse, meaning they tend to do what they’ve always done avoiding creative solutions that put them outside their comfort zone.  Very often this is exactly what is needed.]

There’s a short strip of ‘street’ a few blocks south of our home and garden at SE Schiller between SE 28th Ave and 27th.   It appears to have never been paved.  It’s not currently passable by vehicles of any type without engineering and improvements.  It’s completely overgrown with several invasive plants and multiple weeds all of which have been left on their own for years providing a significant source of ‘infection’ for the neighboring properties.  It is also a repository for trash.  From maps this appears to be a City of Portland property.   Continue reading

Portland Sustainable Landscapes: Toward Health and Diversity – Creating an Organizational Structure for Implementation

 

 

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Urban landscapes can and must vary across a wide spectrum of types from natural to highly contrived display and educational beds. All will require their own maintenance regime that should minimize impacts while supporting the expression of the particular landscape. Good horticultural practice will minimize negative impacts and costs and is largely ‘determined’ by the design.

Introduction

An Office of Sustainable Landscapes that oversees all landscapes within the City and provides active leadership to both private and commercial property owners through the following:

Public Landscapes (active urban contrived) Horticultural Management

Public Landscapes (urban plant communities)

Corridor Management: Transportation and Riverine

Division of State Lands

Tri-Met

P-BoT

O-DoT

Multnomah County Bridges

Outreach and Education

‘Regulatory’

Introduction

Landscape is the setting, matrix and backdrop for everything that we do as humans.  It is where we live, work and play, the places, on which the infrastructure that enables our modern day life, exists.  It is both essential and peripheral, always present and, too often, taken for granted, so much so that we often view it incidentally.  Like many other things in our lives it may go unnoticed until it is so degraded that we can no longer ignore it.  Overall, our care of it, reflects a similar low priority.  It becomes largely ‘invisible’, behind the more recognized needs of a modern City.  Individual mobility, food, water, shelter, energy, economic opportunity and growth, the transportation infrastructure that keep us supplied with these things, all and more take precedence, the landscape subsumed and secondary, inferior and problematic.  Overall, it is not generally viewed today as having inherent value.  Its value, as a living system that allows and enriches biological life, seems almost irrelevant as we are able to satisfy our needs and desires via the economic engine that propels us along.  The landscape, nature, seems relevant only in so far as it can meet our recreational needs providing us a base on which to build and resources that we can manipulate/convert to satisfy our ‘needs’.  Lost in all of this is our relationship with nature, with the landscape, its essential role in the creation and sustenance of all of the resources upon which we and the rest of life depends, and so, it has suffered.  We have lost the ability, or willingness, to use nature as a gauge that shapes all of the other decisions we routinely make in order to meet our ‘economic’ needs.  As both a society and as individuals we have learned to see these as separate and unrelated, so we routinely neglect the landscape.  The problem is pervasive and integrated with how we live our lives.  To correct this we must first acknowledge this and address it on many fronts. Continue reading

Political Paralysis, Direct Democracy and Personal Action: If the People Lead the Leaders will Follow

This is off topic, so If you’re looking for a horticultural twist here, there isn’t one.  Those of you who don’t know me should understand that my first degree was in Sociology, that I had intended a career in urban planning.  Things happened.  The fit was wrong.  But, the function of our social institutions, like our political system, has always fascinated and exasperated me.  I am not a man of faith as a rule and I expect those above me to demonstrate their competence and hearts in their work.  Words are too often used as a smoke screen.  I think we are way beyond the point where words can substitute for action.  So, here we go.

What’s on my mind? Lots lately. The growing crisis in affordable housing here. The yawning chasm between the super wealthy and the rest of us and their spending of money to buy legislation and Congress, climate change which apparently has been banned from some states…the solution should be so simple….
The letter below is what I’ve been thinking of most recently, a letter to Americans of all political affiliations and stripes. The future is upon us friends. We have not been invited to the party!!!

Letter to America

I am a bit obsessive in the way that I look at the world. I can’t let it go though I’m regularly told that I would be happier if I did. Global warming, the looming Cascadian Subduction Zone Quake, the yawning chasm between the super wealthy and the rest of us, the violence and war that has become common place, a growing human population that is putting every resource under increasing pressure from arable land, to fresh water, building materials and petroleum to wildlife habitat and the wild places that can replenish our spirits and restore us; Congress and governments at every level that seem incapable of ‘correcting’ anything, mired in juvenile squabbles, the mind numbing loss of species worldwide and in our own country that we seem resigned to, oh well, what can be done? There is a blasé sense of resignation that takes the place of a meaningful public dialogue…that and finger pointing. And our leaders seem okay with it. Continue reading

A Look into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the Use of Neonicotinoids: A View from two Extremes, part 2

A bee working the large inflorescence of a Heptacodium miconoides.

A bee working the large inflorescence of a Heptacodium miconoides.

This is the second and last installment of my look at Jon Entine’s articles and the strategies he employs.  Here is a link to the first of my postings on this.

Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD – Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees

By Jon Entine | November 24th 2014

Last week, in Part I of this two part series, “Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health”, we explored the claims by Harvard School of Public Health researcher Chensheng Lu, heralded by anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups, for his research that purportedly proves that the class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids are killing bees and endangering humans. And we saw how many journalists, our of ignorance or for ideological reason,s promote dicey science. 

(Some advocacy groups have latched on to Lu’s work looking for legitimacy and support. There has been a growing community of resistance to much that has been going on in the agro-chem-gentec industry that pre-dates Lu and his research. They have been challenging the multi-billion dollar industry on multiple fronts. On the other hand, it only takes a little checking to discover that Lu is often viewed as a ‘liability’ within the scientific community and a hinderence to their efforts by many in the community who have been advocating for good science in the political process that regulates these industries. They did not choose Lu nor do they now claim him as their champion. Entine, in his previous article strategically chose Lu as a ‘straw dog’ to represent his opposition, the “anti-pesticide and anti-GMO advocacy groups”, a target that he could then ‘tear down’ and then apply to the opposition groups as a whole, as if Lu, with his biases and ‘sloppy science’ were truly representative of them. In these articles, at least, Entine gets to choose. This strategy is becoming increasingly common when ‘industry’ and their front men, under attack, seek to ‘confuse’ the public thus reducing political pressure that might seek to limit them and their ability to conduct ‘business as usual’. Continue reading

A Look into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the Use of Neonicotinoids: A View from two Extremes, part 1

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

The following posting is built around an article written by Jon Entine in response to Chensheng Lu’s claims that Neonicotinoides, synthetic Nicotine, a commonly used ‘group’ of insecticides in modern conventional agriculture, are at the heart of CCD.  There is a link to the original Entine article posted on his site, the Genetic Literacy Project ,it also appears, on the Science 2.0, website.  There is a second Entine article as well addressing more directly Lu’s ‘science and Entine’s conclusions that I will deal with in a later posting.   I began this after reading it several weeks ago on Facebook and was initially, convinced by it that Lu was in fact practicing bad science and that bothered me, because Entine’s article was ‘pushing’ me so hard to get to that conclusion.  Later, the topic kept popping up on my radar as I saw calls for bans of neonics here in the US.  I more recently was puzzled by what I found on the Xerces Society website regarding the issue…so I decided to look a little deeper.  What follows is still a beginning, an attempt to winnow the ‘wheat from the chaff’.  There are many more questions to ask if we are to make a responsible decision on this issue.  Such things are never simple when fallible humans and corporations are involved. Continue reading